He’s best known as perhaps the greatest statesman the United Kingdom has ever produced but it was a conflict in 1915 that turned Sir Winston Churchill to another talent – painting.
Churchill first took up the hobby following the disastrous Dardanelles conflict in 1915, which had left him out of office and suffering from a serious case of what he called ‘the black dog.’ While at a country retreat with his family he spotted his sister-in-law Gwendoline painting with watercolours in the garden, and she encouraged him to take up a brush and give it a go. He was not immediately receptive to watercolours, and oils were presently dispatched for - a medium which was much more in line with his vivacious energy and drive.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL PAINTING UNDER THE LOGGIA AT CHARTWELL, EXECUTED IN 1927, £180,000–250,000.
In his quest to master his painterly technique, Churchill benefitted from his close association with some of the greatest artists working in Britain. He was already good friends with the painter John Lavery and his wife Hazel, whom he turned to firstly for guidance and advice, and later he received tutelage from William Nicholson, who was a frequent visitor to the family home in Chartwell, and Walter Sickert, who was a friend of Clementine Churchill’s mother.
Painting became for Churchill not just a hobby but a passion which occupied him for the rest of his life. He found the rendering of the scene before him in a painterly and convincing manner a challenge which took all of his attentions, something to which he had to devote himself fully in the moment. It was as such a relief and a respite from the pressures and constraints of his political life, and he sought out time to paint at every available opportunity, taking his painting case with him on family holidays, and even building a purpose built studio at his home, Chartwell.
His artistic pursuits proved to be a hobby to which he dedicated a substantial amount of time, producing over 500 accomplished oils over the course of his life.
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL PAINTING. REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION OF CURTIS BROWN GROUP LTD, LONDON ON BEHALF OF THE BROADWATER COLLECTION. ORIGINAL HELD AT THE CHURCHILL ARCHIVES CENTRE, CHURCHILL COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
In terms of subject matter, Churchill focused mainly on landscapes: sweeping depictions of the weald of Kent, sun dappled villas in the South of France, or exotic vistas of Egypt or Morocco. Rarely does the figure creep into his landscapes; rarely did he paint portraits of friends and family, and rarer still does the great man himself appear in the composition. Of his vast output, there are only a handful of self-portraits, including Sir Winston Churchill Painting under the Loggia at Chartwell which features in the Modern & Post-War British Art sale on 13 June.
The painting is particularly unique in that it shows Churchill in the act of painting, his beloved pastime and reprieve.
The Modern & Post-War British Art sale is on 13 June.